Phaseone Achromatic real life test

Thanks to the staff of PhaseOne Cologne, I had the opportunity to test the high-end black and white Digital back together with a PhaseOne 645DF and a 80mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens. My expectations were high after having read the technical specifications.

"Traditionally, most camera sensors have a Bayer pattern of individual red, green and blue filters for each pixel. These individual colors are then interpolated through numerous methods to create RGB data for each pixel. The Achromatic+ back is designed to be a black and white only product with no color filters on the sensor."

Let’s look at hard facts – which means images.

Achromatic+ Panoramic View (three images)

For obvious reasons, it’s not possible to present the image in full resolution here. The above image is downsized to a width of 1200 pixel (and 2400 pixel if you click). The detail crops below are not re-sized and represent the full resolution of the camera.

detail crop out of the above image

lower key detail crop out of the above image

Image parts with thin parallel lines are perfectly reproduced, making moire effects much less of a problem.

background detail crop out of the above image

detail crop out of the above image

High contrast areas which usually are critical and often lead to disturbing color fringes and chromatic aberrations are just not visible here.

detail crop out of the above image

During this test-shooting all images were shot with the camera on a sturdy tripod, but no cable release was used. In Postproduction no image manipulation or enhancements were performed. You see the black and white image as it comes out of the camera. The main difference between a black and white image that was created by conversion from a color image and the image files produced by the Achromatic back is the much higher amount of detail in the low key parts of the image together with a much higher overall spectrum of tones from very bright to darkest areas of the image.

The sensor comes without any IR filter, which gives easy access to all kind of scientific photography and breathtaking city- and landscapes and the same time. For the above seen images an IR-blocking filter was used.

4 thoughts on “Phaseone Achromatic real life test

  1. Thanks a lot for posting this Peter. Very interesting and it makes me want it;-) I guess the price-tag will prevent it.

    A question: Did you play with filters, IR or color filters? I guess what I would miss with an achromatic back compared to going black and white based on color images, is the oportunity to use colors specifically in the color to black and white conversion and post-processing. This is something most (digital) photographers going black and white use intensly and it opens a whole creative world that definitely allows us to go further than by using color filters, which is the only way to go with this achromatic back (or black and white film).

    So my first interpretation was: It’s a camera for scientific use or extremely resolution critical application, rather than for photographic art work. What’s your take on this aspect?

  2. As mentioned, I used an “IR-blocking filter” (I will check the precise type and let you know). During my two-day intensive test, I also shot food stills under studio conditions and could also compare to color images (and bw images created from these color images) as I also had the standard P45+ back with me. This was actually the main goal of my test: To be able to compare “pure bw” out of the achromatic+ with bw-images created through Photoshop-conversion from the standard color image.

    A few IR shots will be also presented later.

    I have a huge amount of RAW images to postprocess at the moment, so it will take some more time, before I can present all my results. To answer your question: I absolutely see this as the “dream camera” for artistic black and white photography ! I agree on your statement concerning the possibility to “use color” in the definition of the tones in an black and white image. But I do not see any problem with doing it the “classic way” and having a set of red,yellow, green, blue filters with me while shooting. The never-like this seen before (at least for me) separation between “Zone-1” black and a very bright high key part of an image – without loosing any details or sharpness makes this a very interesting camera for any serious black and white photographer. The needed budget at hand provided 🙂

    Stay tuned …

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